Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, December 24, Morning

By Rev. William Fowler

The Little Engine That Could

Read Mark 1:1-7

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,  as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

When I was a little boy, I remember mom reading us Fowler children a wonderful book. In 1930, Watty Piper transcribed a late nineteenth century fable of a train laden with all good things for children living on the other side of a tall mountain.

This trainload of toys suffered a major crisis when its engine broke down. Everyone debarked from the train and began soliciting help from locomotives passing close to the stalled entourage. A Shiny New Engine, a Big Strong Engine, and a Rusty Old Engine simply would or could not attempt the task of bringing joy to a village filled with children.

Finally, a Little Blue Engine arrived at the scene. Even though never having pulled a train over the mountain, it responded positively to the toys’ pleadings. They climbed back aboard the train. Off they went with the Little Blue Engine saying, “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can!”

This Advent we prepare for the Coming of Christ. John the Baptizer exhorted his listeners to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Mark 1:3b) In our preparation for Advent, we have all kinds of mountains that keep us from receiving or delivering the Blessings of Divine Joy: Covid-19, Fear, Anger, Disappointment, Abandonment, Division, Illness, Bereavement, and many other issues may stand in our way.

Perhaps, with the Help of the Lord, we can borrow the Little Blue Engine’s way of thinking: “I think I can…I think I can…I think I can!” When descending the mountain with the village clearly in view, the Little Blue Engine recited another litany: “I thought I could…I thought I could…I thought I could!” Attitude is crucial in Preparing the way of the Lord.


May the Lord bless us and keep us as we prepare for the coming of the Lord. Amen.

Rev. William Fowler served as Church Street Senior Pastor from 1994-2008. 

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